Rep. Massie threatens to block next relief bill, calls for remote voting


Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), the libertarian lawmaker who single-handedly forced hundreds of his colleagues to travel to the Capitol last month to pass coronavirus relief legislation despite health concerns over the virus, warned Wednesday that he may again block future bills from passing without a roll call vote.

Congressional leaders are preparing to move on a measure as soon as this week to authorize an additional $250 billion to a special small-business loan program included in the $2.2 trillion stimulus package that was passed by Congress last month.

Consideration for the additional funding comes after the program experienced high demand for loans amid the economic fallout of the coronavirus. 

But Massie warned that he will again object to passing an additional coronavirus relief measure through a process that only requires a handful of people present in the chamber and called for establishing a virtual voting system so that all lawmakers can make their individual positions clear.

“Once again, they’re recommending that just let [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi pass it on her own, that we could all stay home. And I’m saying that’s not going to fly, doesn’t fly with the Constitution, doesn’t fly for accountability to the taxpayers,” Massie said during an interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox Business.

“So what I’m recommending is that she enable remote voting for congressmen.”

Massie pointed to the fact that a number of U.S. states — like Pennsylvania and New Jersey — and other countries such as Spain have established virtual voting systems so that lawmakers can vote remotely during the pandemic.

“Look, several state legislatures have already enabled this. Spain has already enabled it. We’re telling our kids to go to school online and Congress can’t even hold a hearing online or even vote remotely. We need to change this so that people don’t have an excuse for not being accountable,” Massie said.

The Senate is expected to meet in a pro forma session on Thursday to pass the bill — which is still under negotiation by congressional leaders and the Trump administration — by voice vote. If the measure passes, the House could follow suit in a pro forma session scheduled for Friday.

Passing legislation by voice vote or unanimous consent doesn’t require all members to be physically present, but one lawmaker can object.

Massie said that he opposes the proposed bill to add more funds to the small-business loans program, but stressed that his concern is about passing major legislation without putting members of Congress on the record about their positions with a roll-call vote.

“As long as the government gives away money, there’s going to be no lack of demand for that. What the government needs to do is allow people to go back to work. And so, anyways. I’m against the bill, but the main thing that I’m against is letting Nancy Pelosi do it in the House on her own without members being accountable,” Massie said. “So let’s enable remote voting. Don’t blame me.”

House leaders sought last month to pass the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package — which created the small-business loan program — by voice vote, but Massie insisted on demanding a roll-call vote.

House Democratic and GOP leaders subsequently scrambled to ensure that at least 216 members were present in the chamber to establish a quorum to override Massie’s objections. The House still passed the bill by voice vote because the minimum number of lawmakers needed for a quorum was present.

Massie drew intense ire from fellow House members on both sides of the aisle for demanding a roll call vote on legislation that otherwise had broad bipartisan support while forcing lawmakers and others to risk exposure to the virus by traveling to and congregating in the Capitol.

President Trump also tweeted that Massie was a “third rate grandstander” and called for “throw[ing] Massie out of Republican Party!”

Members of both parties have called on House leaders to establish a system for remote voting during the coronavirus pandemic. But Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have both expressed skepticism about creating such a system or changing House rules.

It’s also unclear whether Senate Republicans can pass the additional funding for the small-business loans program during Thursday’s pro forma session.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday laid out a series of demands for the funding and called for including hundreds of billions of dollars for hospitals, state and local governments and food stamps.

Tags Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Kevin McCarthy Nancy Pelosi small business loans Stimulus Package Thomas Massie

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